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28 April 2023

NCHA member update – 28 April

This week:

NHS England to review audiology

Professor Sue Hill, the chief scientific officer for NHS England, will lead a steering group to review the quality of audiology services across England. The review will initially focus on the quality of NHS paediatric hearing services. It will also look into workforce development, commissioning and service pathways.
This follows an initial review of services in England, prompted by failings in NHS Lothian that led to delays in diagnosing and treating hearing loss in children.
The BAA said "soft intelligence" in England indicated possible "significant systematic issues, similar to those raised within the NHS Lothian report". It added that this required "an urgent strategic response" which is outside the scope of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme.  
The leading children's charity NDCS has long promoted existing quality standards in audiology and publishes an annual Listen Up report on services in England. It is also expected to play an active role in this review.

HCPC consultation on standards of conduct

The HCPC is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the Standards of Conduct.

The NCHA encourages hearing-aid dispenser and clinical scientist members to participate.

The proposed changes cover five key themes:

  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Communication with colleagues, service users and carers
  • Duty of candour
  •  Upskilling and training responsibilities
  • Managing existing health conditions and disabilities in the workplace.

View a summary of the proposed changes.

The NCHA policy team will be responding on all members' behalf. Please get involved by sending your feedback to [email protected] by 16 May.

More than a third of adults with hearing loss not seeking help

Nearly 40 per cent of adults older than 50 who knew they had a hearing loss did not inform a GP or nurse, according to a new study uncovering the extent of unaddressed hearing loss in England.

Almost one in five who did tell a primary care provider about their hearing loss did not receive an onward referral for a hearing assessment. However, 79% of those who had a hearing test were willing to try to use hearing aids, says the study, published in the International Journal of Audiology.

The study lead, Dr Dalia Tsimpida, said: "We cannot afford to ignore the impact of hearing loss on individuals and society. We need to ... take action to prevent, identify as early as possible, and manage it effectively. This includes investing in hearing health research and medical education, as well as policies and public health interventions that promote hearing health."

One ear may be enough to localise sound

Scientists in Japan have discovered that people with hearing loss in one ear can localise sound. Their study could lead to advancements in hearing-aid technology.

The human ear's ability to locate sounds in the surrounding environment is generally attributed to using both ears, which detect and interpret auditory cues.

The researchers used artificial amplitude modulation noise and human speech signals to simulate sound signals from different directions while accounting for the effect of the ears, torso, and head in filtering sound. They identified key features tied to where the sounds came from using a monaural modulation spectrum (MMS) of the signals.

Read the full article

One million motorcyclists putting their hearing at risk

Tinnitus UK calls for motorcyclists to protect their ears when at work or enjoying a leisure ride, as new data shows less than a third (29 per cent) 'regularly' or 'sometimes' use hearing protection.

Data shows that almost one million motorcyclists (994,000) in the UK are at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus.

Noise puts hearing health at risk at levels of 80dB or above. Riding noise levels vary and combine engine noise, road noise and wind turbulence. However, they are generally about 85-95dB at speeds up to 35mph, climbing to 110-116dB at 65mph.

Caroline Savage, CEO of Tinnitus UK, said: "Noise exposure is the single biggest preventable cause of tinnitus, and it is clear from our research that people appear to be unaware of the risks. Even if you're only hopping on your bike for a short trip, use hearing protection."

Other sector news

  • BIHIMA talks to audiologist Anna Pugh about unmet hearing needs and challenges in the workforce.
  • Listening and playing music can benefit cognitive health in older adults by promoting the production of grey matter. Read more.
  • RNID urges leaders to be open about their hearing loss at work.
  • The British Society of Audiology (BSA) launches a public consultation on a new recommended procedure for visual reinforcement audiometry in paediatric audiology.

Health policy updates

The Hewitt review
The government published earlier this month the long-awaited Hewitt review, an independent study of integrated care systems.

The review calls for changes to GP services, which are overstretched, and recommends increasing the share of total NHS budgets at ICS level for prevention by at least 1% in the next five years. It also states that hospitals would never have the capacity to cope with the demands placed on them by an ageing population.

NCHA comment:

This latest review strongly supports the case for a prevention framework for adult audiology, building on NICE guidelines that promote the early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss to improve health and wellbeing.

Delivering this as a primary-care audiology service will also reduce pressure on GPs and be more cost-effective for the NHS, allowing it to see more patients within available resources.

In other health policy news:

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey shows satisfaction with the NHS is at a record low of 29% - seven percentage points down on the previous year and a drop from the 2010 high of 70% satisfaction. The BSA has run the survey since 1983.

A&E saw the biggest drop in satisfaction, but ratings fell for all services, from GPs and dentistry to general hospital care. The fall in overall satisfaction was seen across all ages, income groups, sexes and supporters of different political parties.








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